Pet Obesity is More Than Just a Little Extra Weight: It’s a Dangerous Epidemic

That last bite of burger you always save for your dog could be killing him. Harsh, right? But true. Carrying extra weight is just as dangerous for our pets as it is for us.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are overweight or obese. Learn the significant dangers of this growing epidemic and how you can tell if your pet is overweight.

Why is Pet Obesity A Problem?

Photo: Flickr/ Chika Watanabe

Sure, chonky cats and dogs can be cute, but overweight cats and dogs are also prone to serious health issues, including joint problems, arthritis, and cancer. Obesity puts our beloved pets at higher risk for the following medical conditions:

Heart disease

Photo: Flickr/Scott 97006

Yes, animals can suffer from heart disease–and the likelihood that they will is increased by obesity. It shortens the lifespan of your pet and impacts their quality of life.

Warning signs to look for:

  • shortness of breath
  • sudden weakness
  • lethargy
  • cough
  • distended abdomen
  • If you see any of these present in your animal, it is vital that you visit the vet right away. In most cases, the pet’s health history will be thoroughly reviewed, followed by a physical examination and diagnostic laboratory testing (x-rays, blood tests, monitoring of blood pressure) in order to accurately diagnose heart disease.


    Photo: Flickr/Mr TGT

    Type I and II Diabetes are more prevalent in obese pets and require the same level of care that the disease demands in humans, with type I necessitating daily injections of insulin.

    Symptoms include:

  • excessive thirst
  • unusual hunger
  • weight loss
  • Call your vet if your obese pet is displaying these symptoms. In order to confirm the diagnosis, your vet will run a series of tests, including a blood count, chemical profile, and urinalysis.

    Painful joints, muscles, and ligaments

    Photo: Flickr/ Russell Bernice

    Your pet’s bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments must all work together in order to provide smooth movement. When excess weight is in play, this sturdy system can become compromised, causing your pet significant pain. Arthritis often develops in obese animals, making movement–vital to the overweight pet–much more difficult and unpleasant. Hip dysplasia, common in many larger breeds, becomes markedly worse. And the anterior cruciate ligament, which is already prone to tears or strains in dogs, is even more likely to be injured.

    Common signs include:

  • stiffness
  • limping
  • difficulty getting up from a sitting or lying position
  • hesitancy to run, jump, or climb stairs
  • lameness
  • Contact your vet if your cat or dog is displaying these common warning signs. X-rays, a physical exam, and diagnostic testing all contribute to your vet’s ability to diagnose.

    Is my dog or cat too fat?

    Photo: Flickr/ayako

    Admittedly, it can be hard to tell — especially if your dog or cat is long-haired. But if you can’t feel your pet’s ribs or see her waistline when you’re looking down at her from the back or behind, your pet is probably overweight.

    How can I help my dog or cat lose weight?

    Photo: Flickr/Heather Harvey

    Finally, what can a pet owner do about their cat or dog’s obesity? Turns out, a lot. Just like with any weight loss plan, proper diet and exercise is key to helping your overweight and obese pets trim down. Check out these stories for diet tips and some fun exercise ideas!

    Additional Resources:

  • Fat Cat to Svelte Feline: How to Reduce Weight in Cats
  • Should Cats Be Walked On A Leash?
  • 8 Creative Ways to Work Out With Your Pet
  • 6 Reasons Why Healthy Cats Live Longer Lives
  • Learn What Those Confusing Cat Food Labels Really Mean, And Protect Your Pet
  • 7 Reasons Why Feeding Your Cat Correctly Is More Complicated Than You Think
  • 11 Physical Conditions in Cats That Need Swift Attention From A Vet
  • Help Rescue Animals

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